Football Recruiting Reset: Defense

UCLA has five commitments from defensive players -- but don't have one from a defensive lineman -- which might be UCLA's biggest need in this recruiting class. With possibly six or more to give to defensive prospects, here are some of the most likely to be Bruins...

With the UCLA football season halfway done, the program has started offering scholarships to more prospects for the 2009 class.

As of now, UCLA has 17 scholarships to give, which is under the NCAA limit of 25 for a given year. It wouldn't, however, be a surprise if UCLA eventually had 20-22 available, since players always leave the program for a myriad of reasons.

To date, UCLA has ten commitments, five being on defense. Two secondary spots became available during mid-summer with a pair of decommits, though one has been filled.

In this review, we'll try to lay out exactly which players have been offered scholarships and what are UCLA's priorities at each position.

This isn't going to be a comprehensive list of every recruit UCLA has shown interest, but a list that concentrates on those players UCLA has offered, those that could possibly receive an offer and those that are most likely to become Bruins.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES:

As we've said on numerous occasions, this is a bad year for tackles in the west, especially in California. UCLA hasn't offered an in-state tackle, and the lone prospect on the west coast they have offered (Coleman) is a soft commit to Washington with grade issues. So they are still closely watching several tackles, in hopes one emerges. They've offered Arizona native Corey Adams, but he's not listing UCLA.

Latu Heimuli, 6-4, 305, Salt Lake City (Utah) Highland. Heimuli is a recent recipient of a UCLA offer, and he's interested in the Bruins, potentially taking a trip officially to Westwood. Nebraska and Washington State have both gotten visits from Heimuli, who is the top defensive tackle prospect in the West region. UCLA would like for him to visit and that would increase their chances with him. Offered

Will Sutton, 6-1, 260, Corona (Calif.) Centennial. Sutton is probably the closest to getting an offer from UCLA, and made a big impression on the coaches at the 1-Day and 3-Day Camps last summer. Sutton's hold-up has been his size, and whether he can withstand the rigors of the trenches in the Pac-10. He did get his first Pac-10 offer this past weekend, and has seven in all, more than the rest of the DTs in the state combined. Sutton likes UCLA and his teammate, receiver Ricky Marvray, has already committed to the Bruins. He's attended a handful of games, including last Saturday against Stanford, and it wouldn't hurt UCLA to get somewhat of a pipeline with Centennial, a high school that has turned into a powerhouse in Southern California.

Eddie Nuckols, 6-2, 291, San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills. Nuckols is a newer name to this list and he's one of the better tackles in the West. His problem has been academics, having a self-reported 2.0 in the spring. However, Nuckols said he's taken summer school classes and his GPA is on the rise and, at the same time, UCLA has started to follow him more, requesting more film and transcripts and inviting him to games. Nuckols is pretty athletic; he also plays fullback for the Grizzlies, and he's got a slew of West Coast offers. If he does continue to improve academically, it wouldn't be a surprise for UCLA to offer him.

Noel Beckles, 6-2, 285, Los Angeles (Calif.) Verbum Dei. UCLA has done well recruiting Verbum Dei the past few years, with Justin Edison and Akeem Ayers both being former Eagles. Beckles said UCLA was his dream school and if the Bruins offered, he'd likely commit. He's been to Junior Day as well as their 1-Day Camp, and the Bruins still lead for him but he's only played sparingly on the defensive line this year, primarily focusing on the offensive line for the Eagles.

Justin Brown, 6-2, 260, Compton (Calif.) High. UCLA has had Brown on campus a couple of times this spring, for a Junior Day and a meet-and-greet, and they know plenty about him, having seen him playing next to UCLA freshman Datone Jones last fall. Brown is a good-sized body who does a good job against the run but he needs to add weight. He likes USC and UCLA both, as his cousin, Chris Metcalf, is already a commit to USC. Brown has gotten off to a strong start in 2008, but still doesn't have an offer. Academically, he checks out.

Other Defensive Tackles Of Note:

Aloofa Taa, 6-0, 260, Seattle (Wash.) Rainer Beach
Nathan Holloway, 6-3, 300, Las Vegas (Nev.) Spring Valley
Sione Tuihalamaka, 6-2, 260, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
Kapono Asuega, 6-1, 265, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran

DEFENSIVE ENDS:

UCLA landed an excellent pair of pass-rushers in Damien Holmes and Datone Jones a year ago, and they're targeting a bunch of the top prospects out west this year. Like the tackles, it's not a great year in-state, so UCLA has been hitting Arizona and Nevada hard in hopes of landing one of the top prospects in those states.

Keenan Graham, 6-4, 215, Las Vegas (Nev.) Silverado. Graham has taken three official visits so far, to Colorado, Wisconsin and Nebraska, and said he will take all five. He's likely going to visit USC officially, so it will be interesting to see if he will still visit UCLA officially. For months, he maintained UCLA as one of his leaders, but as he's taken visits, and played well as a senior, USC is starting to make a bigger push for him. Still, if he visits UCLA officially, that is a good indicator of where they stand. Offered

Devon Kennard, 6-3, 255, Phoenix (Ariz.) Desert Vista. One of the top defensive ends in the country, UCLA offered him earlier this year, but the Bruins will have a lot of ground to make up, as schools like, LSU, Texas, USC and hometown Arizona State have all been on him a lot longer. Kennard, though, is likely down to Arizona State, Cal and USC. Offered

Matt Garin, 6-4, 220, Apple Valley (Minn.) Eastview. For a Midwest player, Garin has gotten a lot of interest from west coast schools, with five offers from the Pac-10, including UCLA. He said that he's planning to visit UCLA officially in December when they host USC. It may be tough, though, to get him away from the homestate Gophers. Offered

Kevin Greene, 6-4, 235, San Francisco (Calif.) Sacred Heart Cathedral. Greene is an intriguing prospect in that he's only playing football for the second year. A prep basketball standout, with a D-I offer on the hardwood, Greene has become a pretty hot commodity out west in football. He owns about eight offers, with UCLA and Arizona the most recent to offer him, but Cal and USC are his two favorites. And Cal has a commitment from his close friend and teammate Dasarte Yarnway. Though he hasn't been offered by either, if he keeps playing like he has (he has a seven-sack game under his belt), the Cal offer could materialize and they would be hard to beat. Offered

Nicholas Alexander, 6-5, 220, Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw. Alexander came to the 1-Day Camp and had a good showing that day. UCLA is one of his favorites and he's close with several of the current Bruins, having played with Brian Price and Raymond Carter in high school. Washington State offered Alexander in September and he also likes Oregon and Minnesota, where his grandfather was an all-American before becoming an NFL Hall of Famer, so the bloodlines are strong to the Gophers. Still, if UCLA got more involved with him, and potentially offered, they could have a good chance.

Other Defensive Ends Of Note:

Jackson Powell, 6-3, 230, Newbury Park (Calif.)
Josh Banks, 6-4, 230, Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary's
Sullivan Grosz, 6-4, 240, Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial
Craig Payne, 6-4, 235, Ontario (Calif.) Colony

LINEBACKERS:

UCLA already has verbals from two linebackers, one potentially a middle linebacker in Golper and one on a strongsider in Bowens. They'll likely take at least one more, probably a weakside ‘backer, though they may wouldn't be opposed to adding a fourth linebacker, too. The weakside spot, though, is probably the most pressing to get.

Todd Golper, 6-1, 225, Arcadia (Calif.). COMMITTED Golper was the first recruit in the class of 2009 to commit to Rick Neuheisel and he's been the pied piper of the recruiting class, taking the lead as the "recruiter" of this class. Golper is a stout middle-backer, ranked #5 nationally by Scout and looked very good in the spring, after a big junior year. If there is one player that defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker is plenty familiar with, it's Golper, who was a teammate of Walker's son, Kevan, the past two seasons. In fact, Golper and QB commit Richard Brehaut have really been the catalysts of the recruiting class. Offered

Isaiah Bowens, 6-3, 220, La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat. COMMITTED Bowens was one of the surprises of the early recruiting stages, but he had some good offers and is coming off a solid junior year. He also comes from one of the top perennial programs in the state in Bishop Amat. Bowens also plays receiver, but his future is on the defensive side of the ball. He's one of two Amat players to commit to UCLA (Price). Bowens missed the first four games of his senior year with a broken leg, and he's a likely redshirt candidate. Offered Manti Te'o, 6-2, 225, Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou. The top player on the Islands and the top linebacker in the country, Te'o may be the biggest recruit to ever come from Hawaii. UCLA offered him after his sophomore year, but this one continues to appear to be a USC-BYU battle. Te'o does come from the same high school that UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow attended. And UCLA very well could get a commitment from his current teammate and close friend, running back Dalton Hilliard. Te'o took an official visit to UCLA in September, the lone official visit that he has taken, and he raved about his trip, with Chow spending a good amount of time with him. Still, we'd be surprised if he ended up somewhere besides USC or BYU. Offered

Vontaze Burfict, 6-2, 235, Corona (Calif.) Centennial. Burfict, the nation's #1 MLB committed to USC earlier this year and says he remains committed to the Trojans but he's somewhat open to other schools, UCLA being one of them. The problem with that is it's well known he's got some work to do academically, so given UCLA's admissions, this is a longshot, at the absolute best. Burfict is still mentioning the Bruins but we still expect him to sign with the Trojans. Offered

Kyle Van Noy, 6-4, 215, Reno (Nev.) McQueen. After Graham, Van Noy is the #2 player in Nevada. He may be the best athlete in the state as well, as he can play a number of positions. He'll likely end up at weakside linebacker in college. The Bruin staff offered him in September, and they're in the mix with Colorado (where he's officially visited), Boise State and BYU among others. Van Noy is planning to make an official visit out to Westwood. BYU could be the team to beat here, though, as Van Noy is LDS. Offered

Eric Martin, 6-2, 218, Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde. Martin had the best performance of any linebacker at the UnderArmour/Scout.com Combine in Los Angeles, showing great range, speed and athleticism. He's been working on his academics and he's been to a couple of UCLA games, and does like UCLA. But he needs to take the SAT and get a better score for UCLA to be more serious about him.

Jordan Barrett, 6-3, 225, Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame. Barrett had an excellent junior season, despite playing in the shadows of Anthony McDonald, and how has continued to get attention as a senior. He has offers from Notre Dame and Washington, but attended UCLA's spring practices and spring game and has legitimate interest in the Bruins. Barrett is a versatile prospect; he could play in the middle or on the strongside too. He's played very well as a senior and he's been to a couple of UCLA games so far.

Maurice Cox, 5-11, 220, Riverside (Calif.) North. Cox is a talented player who loves to hit. The problem is he's a bit undersized, at least from a height standpoint, and that has tempered his recruitment. But he's played very well in 2008 and the UCLA coaches have been watching him closely, and he's been invited to, and attended, several UCLA games. He could be a wait-and-see guy as they wait for more guys ahead of him to make a decision.

Nick Bruce, 6-1, 210, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft. Bruce is a middle linebacker for Taft, but would probably play on the weakside in college. Very similar in build to Reggie Carter, and with the same style of play, Bruce has UCLA as one of his top two schools, and has the academics to back it up. He had a very good showing at UCLA's 3-Day Camp, playing both linebacker and fullback, and very well could increase his chances of a UCLA offer if they were to bring him in as a fullback, as he showed good athleticism and moves out of the backfield. UCLA and Washington are his top two schools and he finally received his first offer, from Fresno State, in September.

Robert Franco, 6-0, 225, San Pedro (Calif.). Franco attended UCLA's Junior Day and some games last fall, as well as the Spring Game, and the Bruins, along with Cal, are one of his top two schools. Franco said an offer from one of those two schools would be tough for him to pass up. He had a very good day at UCLA's 1-Day Camp, especially in the 1-on-1s but his size could be the concern. Still, he's a big hitting linebacker who has good speed. Like Bruce, he could also play fullback, but Franco is probably best served playing on defense. Washington State is his lone offer and he's planning to take an official visit there, but he's hoping for some more in-state love.

Michael Clay, 6-2, 225, San Jose (Calif.) Bellarmine Prep. Clay had UCLA in his top three for much of the year, but they've fallen out of his top schools list of late. He did tell us earlier this month that he won't be making any decisions in the early part of the season, in hopes of opening some more eyes, specifically with Arizona State and UCLA. Still, Cal and Oregon are his top two schools and they could be tough to pass up.

Jayson Allmond, 6-1, 250, Bloomington (Calif.) High. Almond is a physical specimen, who very well could end up a fullback on the next level, with good straight-ahead quickness for his size. He has been to a few UCLA games so far this season. His issue is academics, but if the problems were cleared away UCLA could step up interest.

Other Linebackers Of Note:

Barkevious Mingo, 6-5, 210, West Monroe (La.) Offered
Boseko Lekombo, 6-3, 215, Vancouver (B.C.)Offered


CORNERBACKS:
The Bruins had two cornerback commitments but Marlon Pollard's decision to switch to Notre Dame opened a hole that Sermons filled.  With the current freshmen, it could be that only Aaron Hester is the only one among the defensive backs who can play corner (even though Johnathan Franklin might end up there). Though they have two commits at corner, they still may bring in a third.

Sheldon Price, 6-1, 160, La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat. COMMITTED. Price needed all of a half a second to accept UCLA's offer before he committed to the Bruins. The son of former Bruin and NFL defensive back Dennis Price, Sheldon has had UCLA as his dream school his whole life and was just waiting for the offer. After strong showings in Las Vegas and at the Nike Camp, Price received that offer and committed to the Bruins at the Spring Game. He still needs to add weight, but his llong arms and good quickness at the position gives the Bruins a good prospect at the corner spot.Offered

Brandon Sermons, 6-1, 180, Pomona (Calif.) Diamond Ranch. COMMITTED.  With Pollard's decommitment, Sermons was the recipient of UCLA's next cornerback offer, and the Bruins had been one of the schools he's strongly considering. And in October, he made that consideration a commitment.  The brother of former USC running back Rodney Sermons, Sermons chose the Bruins over Arizona State, Colorado Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona. He's close friends with Price and has been to a couple of UCLA games, and the coaches had been out to see him this fall, showing the urgency for him. Offered

Sean Martin, 6-0, 180, Corona (Calif.) Santiago. Martin emerged from the spring as a recruit whose clear talent was easily recognizable, but academics have kept many schools from diving in. He's excellent in coverage and has good backpedal quickness. He's played well on both sides of the ball this fall, and he's said he's doing better in the classroom, and if he continues to improve his grades believes he could get a UCLA offer. His old teammate is current UCLA freshman, Anthony Dye, and Martin has UCLA as one of his favorites. If the Bruin staff does decide to offer another corner, he could be the recipient of that offer.

Cliff Harris, 6-0, 175, Fresno (Calif.) Edison. Harris is the top-ranked corner in the country, and has showed it just about every way he can, on the field, at camps and combines, you name it. He and Courtney Viney are close friends, and UCLA is a school he's got interest in, but the Bruin staff is waiting on his SAT score. He told us at B2G that UCLA just wants an SAT score from him before they offer. USC has offered, and Oregon is a school he likes a lot, too. It could be though, that UCLA isn't able to wait on Harris to get his academics squared.

Other Cornerbacks Of Note:

Nolan Washington, 5-11, 175, Burien (Wash.) Kennedy
Marcus Andrews, 6-0, 175, Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw
J.B. Dock, 5-10, 175, Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure
Sean Murray, 6-0, 175, Corona (Calif.) Santiago
Chris Hill, 5-10, 175, Carson (Calif.)
Bijon Samoodi, 5-8, 160, Anaheim (Calif.) Servite
Semaj Harris, 5-11, 180, Lawndale (Calif.) Leuzinger

SAFETIES:

The Bruins signed three safeties last year but losing Moore's commitment a few months ago hurts because he was the lone pure safety they had committed. Mascarenas is a gifted and versatile defensive back, but he probably is best suited to play cornerback in college. Expect UCLA to try to bring in at least one, if not two, more safeties in this class.

Alex Mascarenas, 5-11, 180, Mission Viejo (Calif.). COMMITTED. Mascarenas is an intriguing prospect because he could play corner or safety and probably prefers safety in college, where he says UCLA is planning to put him. But physically, he may be best geared to play cornerback He's been one of the best DBs in the Southland the past two years, earning all-CIF honors the past two seasons, including in 2006 when he was on the all-Pac5 team as the lone sophomore, the toughest division in the state. He is one of Orange County's top prospects in the class of 2009 and he's been one of the top receivers in the county, being a primary target for Cal-bound teammate Allan Bridgford. If there's a recruit in this class who might be under-hyped and turns out to be better than he's projected by the recruiting services it's Mascarenas.Offered

Brent Seals, 6-1, 190, La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat. Seals has made no bones about his desire to get an offer from the Bruins, especially with Price and Bowens, his Amat teammates, having committed to UCLA. Seals was excellent at the Scout Combine in May, then followed it up the next week with a great performance at the UCLA 1-Day Camp. His obstacle is that he's projected to play safety in college and he's only played linebacker in high school. And during his senior season, he's stayed at linebacker per his coaches request. But at the camps he attended – at UCLA, Washington and Stanford -- he worked with the safeties. A very good athlete and student, it wouldn't surprise us to see Seals end up with a UCLA offer down the line, and they'd be in great shape with him if they did offer. He's played very well this fall, especially in a narrow loss to Los Osos, where he sacked UCLA quarterback commit Richard Brehaut twice.

Lester White, 6-1.5, 205, Riverside (Calif.) J.W. North. Blessed with good size and speed, White has seven offers, including a few from the Pac-10, and UCLA is one of his top seven schools despite the Bruins not having offered. We know they have been showing interest in him, though, having been by the school during the spring, but they're waiting on his transcripts and test scores. UCLA has been to see him on one of their days out, and White has been invited to a couple of UCLA games, and attended one, and the coaches will likely get back out to see him this fall.

Nathan Fellner, 6-0, 195, Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West. Fellner committed to Washington during the summer, but with the looming coaching change in Seattle, is still keeping an eye on other options. Fellner has been invited to a handful of UCLA games, and attended some, and he's had serious interest in UCLA since last fall. Whether or not he gets an offer remains to be seen. And he may very well end up sticking with the Huskies when they get a new coach. Still, he's one to keep an eye on.

Other Safeties Of Note:

Jamal Atofau, 5-10, 185, Bellevue (Wash.)
Jabari Carr, 6-1, 180, San Jose (Calif.) Oak Grove
Dijon Washington, 6-1, 180, Lawndale (Calif.) Leuzinger


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